Mary Boland
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

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March 22, 2012
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Genetically modified food serves up a host of ills

Amid mounting evidence of the dangers genetically modified crops pose to humans, animals, our soils and biodiversity, the corporate-controlled U.S. government continues to ignore the dangers and actively promote GM crops.

Even worse are the increasing reports that scientists trying to study these dangers are having their government or corporate funding cut off. In some cases, they are even being prohibited by their universities from continued research because the universities fear losing corporate funding. And corporations with patents on GM crops are further hindering these same scientists by refusing them access to their seeds and crops.

But at least retired professor emeritus Don Huber of Purdue University has not been afraid to sound the alarm. A specialist in soil microbiology and plant pathology for more than 35 years, Huber has written and met with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to express his concerns about GM crops and ask for action to halt their spread and fund more research into the dangers.

It has been widely known for some time that genetic modification has so far failed to increase yields of any crop. Instead, GM crops designed to tolerate spraying of Roundup (glyphosate) herbicide have simply increased use of Roundup to the point that insects have developed resistance to it and the many superweeds that have appeared.

But Huber points out that the glyphosate moves out of plant roots into the soils where it kills beneficial soil organisms needed by plants to uptake critical minerals, resulting in less healthy and less nutritious plants and recently causing a considerable increase in plant diseases.

The resulting decline in beneficial soil organisms also allows harmful soil organisms to bloom, causing outbreaks of diseases such as toxic botulism. These harmful soil microorganisms were previously controlled by the beneficials.

In general, the increased use of glyphosate is destroying the proper balance of microorganisms in our soils and in animal and human guts.

Huber is very alarmed by the USDA's deregulation earlier this year of GM alfalfa and sugar beets. He warns that increased glyphosate use on these crops will destroy the soil organisms responsible for the nitrogen-fixing efficiency of alfalfa.

The increased use of glyphosate also leaves toxic residues in the plants that cannot be washed off. These kill beneficial intestinal microbes necessary for digestion. Also, these residues are powerful endocrine disrupters resulting in various reproductive disorders.

Crops designed to produce their own Bt, another powerful endocrine disrupter, are equally, if not even more, dangerous. Bt has recently been found in human breast milk.

Huber points out that there has been a considerable increase in human infertility since GM crops were introduced and this has been attributed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as glyphosate and Bt. He says human sperm counts in the U.S. are down by 50 percent compared to 20 years ago.

Now livestock veterinarians are becoming alarmed by very high rates of reproductive failure in cattle, horses, pigs, sheep and poultry. They have established that the cause is a heretofore unknown entity about the size of a small virus coming from GM soy and corn.

The whole idea that GM foods would be safe was based on outdated science. It is now known that the expression of a new gene will be accompanied by an unforeseeable range of collateral changes in other genes.

Furthermore, the sequence of the genes matters very much in determining how they express themselves or other genes. And genetic modification involves inserting the foreign gene randomly, out of a sequence that has evolved over millions of years. The consequences are unpredictable.

Since GM corn, soy and canola products and derivatives are so widespread in processed foods, the only way to protect your health, and especially that of your children, is to buy only processed foods labeled organic or at least GMO free. The same goes for meat, eggs and dairy products. Unless they are labeled organic or GMO free, the animals were fed GM feed. So far unprocessed fruits and vegetables are GMO free.

For more information, check out the websites of the Institute for Responsible Technology and the Organic Consumers Association.

- "What Do We Really Want?" appears on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month. Mary Boland is a retired teacher and journalist, a proud grandmother and a longtime resident of Carbondale. Follow her on twitter@grannyboland.

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The Post Independent Updated Mar 22, 2012 01:08AM Published Mar 22, 2012 01:06AM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.